Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARD-C was a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, whose report is now being compiled. In this interview, she reviews the conference and articulates what she points as one of the major failures of the conference among other national issues. Excerpts:
BY JOSEPH ERUNKE
WEre there areas you felt the conference did not handle properly?
I think the area which I can say was not handled as some of us had expected was the issue of devolution of power. I think our discussion shouldn’t have focused more on devolving the power but looking at the structures that can enable us ensure that the money they have been allocating are properly managed.
Many are aware that they have been allocating monies and resources have been shared in this country and they have not materialized into anything.
So, what we need to do is not looking at how to share more money but how people can adequately manage that money, so that the money translates in its real sense to the development of the communities and to Nigerians as a whole.
Anything short of that will be maintaining the status quo, that is business as usual.
Do you have any fear that the report of the confab could be jettisoned?
There are issues that deserve policy engagement, which means that as it is, once the proposal comes up, the Presidency or the Executive should be able to take that policy decision. They don’t need to go to the National Assembly to get those things done. There are issues that desire constitution reform. We know, the National Assembly is the only arm of government that can make laws and since its concern is in law, we can’t do that as civil societies, let us go back there.
The challenge we might have is that we don’t have much time. The elections will be coming in February and as we know, the politicians will be distracted.
So it will be suicidal to leave this until after 2015 election. We must take all these into consideration. What I am saying in essence is that they need to fastrack the process.
The process of convening people together is coming rather late and because it is coming rather late, we need to determine what happens to it. They need to fast track the process, engage the National Assembly and we also need to look at the consideration of referendum because the problem with our existing constitution is that it is not people oriented. So if we want a more people oriented constitution, then it becomes important for us to take it back to the people and I am just looking at the time which is actually too short to engender the implementation of the outcome.
Do you see the outcome of the confab being applied in the 2015 general election?
That is why I said there is the need to fast track the outcome, if we don’t fast track it, if steps are not taken in the next three months on this report, the report could just become like any other one since 2005.
I think that the report should not only be on the table of the government but also on the table of the people, I think the efforts which the civil societies can make is to see how we can abridge the final report and send it to the public space so that Nigerians can see some of the good things that are coming out from the report and can be the ones to clamour for the implementation of that report.
Implementation of report
The way it’s going, I remember the report of the Justice Uwaise Electoral Reform Committee which was subjected to a White Paper review and at the end of the day, what did we see from the White Paper review?
Nothing, because what they (White Paper Committee) did was to water down every decision that had been made. They asked them to throw away this and throw away that.
So, if this report is going to pass through that process, then, what we can say is to urge Mr President to ensure that there is no repeat of that. You have put people together, they fought, they agreed and at the end of the day, they have come up with a compromised document, lets’ move forward as Nigerians on the basis of this document.